If local “progressives” aren’t holding City Hall’s feet to the fire about Housing Choice vouchers, are they really progressive?

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According to the Green Mouse, the last time a News & Tribune reporter was allowed into the inner sanctum for an interview with Mayor Jeff Gahan, there was a precondition that all questions first be submitted for approval by City Hall.

The answers were printed and ready when the reporter entered the mayor’s office, and after a few moments of small talk, so ended the “interview.”

Welcome to non-transparent governance, Nawbany-style.

Way back on March 16, 2017, the newspaper’s then-reporter Elizabeth Beilman provided an overview of Gahan’s recently facilitated hostile public housing takeover. While only Beilman herself knows whether her questions required City Hall pre-approval, here’s a paragraph of interest.

(Gahan’s NAHA seizure) will also signal a paradigm shift that more closely mirrors the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s changing model for public housing — fewer “brick-and-mortar” options and more affordable housing flexibility through a voucher system. Gahan believes this will position New Albany for better success when applying for tax credits and other applications.

Beilman also spoke with David Duggins, appointed by the mayor to serve as Gauleiter of the annexed NAHA territories.

New Albany is instituting measures meant to open up more opportunities for affordable housing that will accept Housing Choice Vouchers, Duggins said.

The city’s recently updated comprehensive plan states any new private housing development that receives incentives from the city, such as tax breaks, would be required to set aside 8 percent of its units for voucher holders, Duggins said. The plan was passed unanimously by the city council.

The council also approved an ordinance requiring landlords to register their rental units with the city. An inspection component of the ordinance was removed by the council, but city officials hope registration of units will increase communication with property owners to prevent deterioration of homes.

“If we start now encouraging affordable development, if we work now and enforce 8 percent [reserved units for vouchers], then there are units that will be available as this goes through,” Duggins said. “It will simultaneously work together, but it is a process.”

And if voucher holders can’t find eligible housing in New Albany when the time comes?

“I think we’re happy that they would go and find any place — if it’s in the city, great, if it’s outside the city that makes them happy and gives them a quality of life that they’re looking for, I think that’s the whole concern,” Duggins said.

It’s almost as if both Gahan and Duggins knew their words about the utility of Housing Choice vouchers were meaningless drivel even as they uttered them — as Chen discusses below.

Someone should ask them.

The newspaper, perhaps?

Better yet, shouldn’t the so-called local Democratic Party progressives — who insist against all prevailing evidence that Gahan and Duggins are somehow “one of them” — be the ones to ask the occasional hard question?

Or must those queries, too, be approved in advance?

Our Housing-Voucher Program Is Broken, Michelle Chen (The Nation)

Landlords regularly refuse to rent to voucher holders, defeating the point of the program.

For many families in impoverished communities, their best hope for escaping poverty is to just move out of it. But often, the poverty follows them: They struggle to find a better neighborhood they can actually afford in crowded, expensive local housing markets. Today, with poverty and underfunded schools so intensely concentrated in isolated enclaves, the nationwide housing crisis is as much a crisis of segregation as a crisis of affordability.

The federal department of Housing and Urban Development has sought for years to help poor families relocate to lower-poverty areas through the Housing Choice program, which provides rental vouchers as a one-way ticket out to a healthier and stabler environment, resettling families in peaceful, integrated neighborhoods with more job and educational opportunities. Housing Choice vouchers are a major resource for cash-strapped public-housing authorities, currently supporting about 2.2 million households nationwide. Calculated according to income, the subsidies allow tenants generally to pay no more than 30 percent of income for rent. That could mean the difference between a roach-infested studio and a sunny single-family duplex with a $400 higher monthly rent. Those savings have a way of trickling down to the next generation, too: Research has linked a better home environment to healthier child development, less social distress, and greater economic stability. But as Congress weighs a modest expansion of the program, researchers have found that the Housing Choice recipients tend to face stiff barriers of stigma and implicit bias.

According to an extensive field study by the Urban Institute, many voucher holders are thwarted by landlords who simply won’t rent to them, regardless of the subsidy. Although some cities have laws that explicitly ban landlords from denying someone solely on the basis of being a voucher holder, researchers say subsurface biases still color first impressions and shape housing opportunity. It seems that people with vouchers are, ironically, perceived the same way landlords would view a bad credit check or a criminal record—a sign of a potentially troublesome tenant …

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